NC’s SOE ownership push Vs NA’s mixed ownership over Mines and Minerals Bill

In the 2nd sitting of the National Council session on November 30, Economic Minister Loknath Sharma and also the Member In-charge of the Mines and Minerals Bill of Bhutan 2020 (MM Bill), introduced the bill. The economic minister said that the National Council had in the past sessions also discussed and raised the issue of mines and minerals numerous times, besides the NC, other concerned authorities have also conducted various reviews and studies on this issue.

The Bill proposed to repeal the Mines and Minerals Act of Bhutan 1995. He stated that the new Bill is tabled to meet the needs of the changing times and development of the country to make it consistent with the Constitution and other relevant laws.

He said that the Bill consisted of 15 chapters with 191 sections aimed towards the sustainable mining of Bhutan’s natural resources and environment.

Chair of the Legislative Committee, MP Choining Dorji briefly gave the background of the Bill and the work the committee has done so far into bringing this bill to the House. He also listed the relevant stakeholders consulted and field visits made for better understanding of the implementation and ground realities of the existing Act.

He briefed the House that the Committee proposed significant amendments, repeal and new insertions according to the committee’s findings and wisdom. He stated the committee has come down to 151 sections from the original 191 sections.

The NC arrived at the decision to allocate mines to SOE citing the Constitution, resolutions of the NC on the issue of Mines and Minerals passed since 2008, recognition of the audit report of the RAA and the report of the ACC and recommendation of the National Law Review Task Force 2018.

National Council adopted the Mines and Minerals Bill on December 7, the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, MP Choining Dorji reported that out of the 150 sections submitted for deliberation, 48 sections were reassigned to the Committee for review, 4 sections were withdrawn and 5 new sections added during the internal meetings conducted by the Committee. With the show of hands, the House adopted all the amendments made by the Committee and unanimously adopted the Bill with 22 members present and voting.

On December 9, Economic Minister Loknath Sharma moved the motion to re-deliberate on the recommendations received from National Council. The Bill was forwarded to the Economic and Finance Committee for further review. The Committee will report back to the House on December 12.

Chairman of Economic and Finance committee, MP Kinley Wangchuk said the national assembly proposes Broad Based Ownership and open competition while National Council proposes for state owned enterprises (SoE).

The MP said that this bill will step into the joint committee and joint session is most likely to happen and so it is difficult to comment how things will unfold right now.

The Bill was earlier forwarded to the National Council by National Assembly in the Third Session of Third Parliament earlier this year.

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